It started as a quest to visit all the 60+ BBQ places in the counties of Madison, Limestone, Morgan, and Lawrence in Northern Alabama (that is the Hunstville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area).
Then I got sent back to Germany and there was no BBQ. But eventually I got assigned to a new job which takes me on business trips in the USA occasionally. So I reopened the blog – just deleted the “North Alabama” from the title.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que
BBQ No 42 – Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que El Paso, Texas
During my occasional travels, I
try to sample BBQ at those near and far away places outside the Quest area. I
just really, really like that stuff ...
Texas is, of course, a big state. You’ll find
deserts in there, as well as woodlands, pasture lands, big cities, one horse
towns, hills and mountains, valleys and plateaus. And as diverse as its
landscape the cuisine is, too. From steak to enchiladas, from green chili to
potatoes, from beer to wine, they have everything there. And naturally, they
also have BBQ. They often use mesquite instead of hickory as fuel for the
smokers, and because Texas
is certainly more famous for its cattle than its hogs, they generally excel at
beef more than at pork.
El Paso is something special, even in this
heterogeneous state. It close proximity to Mexico, the exchange of ideas,
people, and recipes over decades, as well as the fact that today over eighty
percent of the population are of Hispanic decent, has created a cuisine that is
heavily Mexican-oriented. Since slow smoking of meat is not a staple of that
particular kitchen culture, there are only relatively few original BBQ
restaurants for a city of that size, and of course there are some restaurants
of BBQ franchises there.
Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que is one of those franchises, having a whopping
195 restaurants from Arkansas to Wyoming – though none in Alabama yet. And I guess that all look the
same, a mixture of your typical neighborhood family steakhouse and an angler’s
In El Paso, they have two locations, and
I went to the one on North Mesa, right off
It was Sunday around noon, and the place was packed with El Pasoians,
with Cowboy hats all around me and half the people wearing Dallas Cowboys shirts.
It was a very pleasant surprise that my server was wearing a Tennessee Titans
shirt, me being a Titans fan and all – made me feel a little homesick.
As usual, I ordered the pork plate, which at Famous Dave’s they
inexplicably call “Georgia Chopped Pork”. I’ve been to BBQ joints in Georgia, and
they don’t usually chop their pork. On the other hand, since that’s what they
seem to do in Mississippi,
I surmised that them Texans just got their geography mixed up. Georgia,
Mississippi, same difference – all in the dirty South, might as well be one
state after all, who knows, who cares. Anyway, as sides I chose baked beans
and, on the suggestion of the server, Mac’n’Cheese. The plate also comes with a
corn bread muffin, which has, of course, green and red chili in it. Not my cup
of tea, I do not really like the mixture of sweet cornbread with spicy stuff.
But in El Paso
and vicinity it is next to impossible to avoid spicy ingredients in places
where you least expect them.
So, I took a bite and that was that. I also tried the BBQ chips with
Sweet’n’Zesty sauce that is served as are chips and salsa in Mexican
restaurants. The chips are tasty, but also made with a lot of spices. Carramba,
are they trying to kill all non-natives with their cooking? And then they have
six different BBQ sauces at Famous Dave’s: Georgia Mustard, Texas Pit,
Sweet’n’Zesty, Rich&Sassy, Wilbur’s Revenge, and Devil’s Spit.
If your tongue is not laced with leather or impregnated with Teflon,
stay away from most of those. It is good sense to avoid any sauce that has the
words “Revenge” or “Devil” in it anyway. The other four are not as hot, but
still pack a punch, more or less. I decided to stay with the Georgia Mustard
sauce, which is also spicy, of course, but not as much and it has a very nice
mustardy undertone. The other three sauces were not that special, just plain
old boring red, thick, and spicy sauces. But then a problem arose – the pork
came with Sweet’n’Zesty sauce already poured over it. Again, the question is
yelled at the BBQ world: Why, oh why, do you think that I want my pork
pre-conditioned with sauce? Let me decide what to pour on it, especially when
you have six sauces to choose from! Carramba!
So it was inevitable to mix those two sauces, at least for parts of the
pork. Which was reasonably tender, but also had big flakes of fat and gristle
in it – not my favorite texture. It also tasted not so much wood-smoked than infused
with bacon flavor.
The baked beans were also only so-so, with a taste straight out of a
supermarket can. The Mac’n’Cheese on the other hand, while not being anything
close to a revelation, were at least interesting, with green chili and corn in
For all that, and bottomless refills on my soft drink, which I
certainly needed, I paid a bit more than fifteen bucks. Not the cheapest BBQ
meal I ever had, and certainly not with the quality to warrant that price. Next
time I am in El Paso,
I will stick to the real local cuisine – maybe there is a place where they have
two different menus, one for the locals and one for us tourists with actually
edible stuff on it. Carramba!